Weeks 9-10: Reentry

Posted: November 14, 2009 in Иркутск, Student Life
Tags: , , , , , ,

Coming back to Irkutsk after the week in Mongolia was an amazing relief. I knew where to go, which bus to take, how to look on the street, how to ask for things in complete sentences. All of which had not been a part of our vacation.

Although we’d had a rather high-activity week off, the mental rest from Russian with speaking English, and the opportunity to simply “soak it in” still made the trip worthwhile as a vacation.

But I missed Russia: free use of the imperative, the not needing to appear especially happy on the street, the thrill of marshrutka rides in Irkutsk traffic. Apparently, the first 7 weeks had begun to rub off. Gogol is attributed the line, “What kind of Russian doesn’t like fast rides?”

Mid-terms return. If the return to the country was smooth and reassuring, then the return to studying was a bit more of a shock. The 7:30 a.m. alarm first thing on last Tuesday morning was pretty harsh.

Our teachers didn’t help. We had two 80-minute essay tests in Speech/Writing Practice and in Literature last week, and then leading up to and during the weekend I had my 12-page Economics paper on the electro-energy market of Irkutsk Oblast’ (province).

Regardless of the general unpleasantness of the jerk back into school life, it reassured me that I had at least reached a level of adjustment, where school was just school, though my complex about the academic rigor and social feel of the university being on the same level as high school hadn’t gone away, if not gotten worse.

Free-time. As noted on my greeting card post, we had Wednesday off to observe the day of agreement, which a Vova and I celebrated the eve-of at his house.

Last Friday, on the day of the revolution, Romany and I watched “My Fair Lady” with Nelli and Ira at Romany’s home-stay while we munched on American-style oatmeal cookies, which turned out fairly good as they were out of Russian ingredients.

Afterwards, I went over to Vova’s to hang out. We tried going to a club, but the guards apparently thought we were lying about our ages, and before we could get documents out, they, well, we’ll say “forcefully” let Vova that they wanted us to go. The police came, statements were written, etc., and now he’s got to go to court to prove he didn’t start it. I stayed out of it all, but I feel bad that he has to deal with all of the bureaucracy of it now, not to mention a few bruises.

Luckily, his mom’s come to Irkutsk from their hometown Ust’-Ilimsk to help with that stuff, so I’ve been back over a few times and been lovingly overfed.

Last night was better than the previous Friday night. Much better. A group of us from the university, that is, four Germans (Maria, Ude, Hannah, Katerina), three Russians (Nelli, Ira, Olga), an Austrian (Severin), an American (Dan, who is teaching English at the university on a Fullbright Grant), and myself, met at “Golden Island” Chinese restaurant, which was celebrating it’s third birthday.

I’ve never been to a restaurant birthday. But, I think it’s safe to say that nothing like this would ever happen in America. At least not in the way it did. Here’s how to have a Russian-style Chinese-restaurant birthday party:

First, get a pretty girl and clad her in a tall stiff white wig and gold cellophane-type paper, and tell her to stand in the middle of a donut-table, the paper flowing over the table as a table cloth, where you put the cheap wine you’re including in the $5 cover that you’re charging for the evening. Then tell her to wait a few hours, just standing there and looking pretty/creepy while people pick glasses of wine off her golden paper dress.

Next, order a DJ and ask him to play like every popular Russian song ever written regarding birthdays.

Then dress up a few of your managers in angel-with-wings and devil-with-horns dresses and have them emcee everything, dropping lines like “‘Golden Island’ represents a center point of dining in Irkutsk,” and “Three full years of exquisite food, good company, a great place to work.” Tell them that they can come out to intro music, even if it does sound like newscast intro music.

Order entertainment. This should include something for everyone. Meaning dancers/striptease girls for the men, which will walk out in hoods carrying candles to go along with the angel/devil theme that really relates to nothing nor includes the golden girl-table. Meaning a shirtless guy who blows fire to music and does a few flips around his fire torches on the ground. Meaning a trio of Russian breakdancers for the young crowd. Don’t forget the hip-hop music like “Golden Island” did, or it will be kind of awkward.

Think up a few games to play. Like two-guys-hide-fake-money-on-their-bodies-and-women-search-for-it, or the timeless eat-a-banana-and-chug-a-waterbottle-while-wearing-boxing-gloves. Or just have two guys eat hot dog sausages really fast.

Include the foreigners in the games–the Americans especially, even if one of them (Dan) will have a hard time understanding without a translator (Nelli). I was jostled into getting up to the stage area for the banana-waterbottle-boxing-gloves game. Another Russian guy about my age was my opponent. We were initially handed boxing gloves and told “You two are going to fight.” Oh ****. And then they explained the rest of the game. Which I won. (!) My prize was a little rubber lizard.

So that was the “program” of the birthday, which we enjoyed with our Chinese and Russian food (I stuck to the Russian pel’meni, remembering my run-in with the Chinese communist plot in Ulan-Ude) and drinks.

We didn’t head out ’til around 2 a.m., having arrived at 7 p.m. (time flies. . . ). Nelli, Olga, Severin, and I wanted to go to a club, so after an unsuccessful try at “Cherdak,” we ended up in the center at “Broadway,” which was a newer club and quite nice. Their prices were good too. Cool lights, leopard print chairs.

Around 5 we decided to transfer to a pizza cafe to grab a quick (cheaper) snack and wait for transportation. That seemed to be the early-weekend-morning gathering place of merry twenty-somethings, so the company was appreciated. After a bit of a snafu with transportation home, I walked in at 7 and crashed until the early afternoon.

Keeping busy. I’ve continued helping out at the Waldorf School in a 7th grade English class and have recommitted myself to trying to be a bit more involved with the ecological group, GBT, but after my going to the meeting last Thursday, the city duma decided to ban meetings in society because of the H1N1’s growth in Irkutsk.

So those plans a bit foiled, I’ve also reopened the search for a theatre/singing/piano related channel of involvement, since I’ve got the time and have started to really miss doing those things.

The host mom is supposed to return from the sister in Voronezh tomorrow or the next day, so that’s good, as well.

Overall, the rhythm of life is just as varied or static as it would be at home at this point, a good feeling two months and a half in.

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